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Making Waves as a Swimwear Designer

Summer is quickly approaching and nothing evokes the season like swimwear. Every year, designers and industry insiders in this niche market work hard to bring new splashes to the swimsuit. “I enjoy designing swimwear, plus I found that I have a product that people really want and like,”  says Lila Rivera, Owner and Head Designer of Lila Nikole swimwear. “So I decided to follow through and create a business with swimwear design.” Liliana Villalobos also enjoys her work with swimsuits as Creative Director of Applauzi, which includes Aguaclara swimwear, even if her foray into swimwear was a happy accident. “Twenty years ago, we started the company thinking about making active wear, but when the summer got close, we started to make some bikinis, and we sold it all,” she says. “It turned into the main business.” But it’s not all sunshine in the swimwear business. Designers must persevere and overcome challenges to make a name for themselves. “It is imperative to make a bold statement and differentiate yourself from the rest,” says Rivera, who graduated from the Fashion Design program at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2005. “You need to be fresh to the eyes in order for someone to even notice you.” Geography also plays an important role in the success of swimwear designers. Maria Aguerri is the Academic Director for Fashion Marketing and Management at The Art Institute of Michigan. She says swimwear design can be more difficult than other facets of the fashion industry because a designer’s credibility often is based on where he or she lives and works. “It’s not the same in Detroit as it is in California,” she points out. “When you think of swimwear, you think of the beach.” And unfortunately summer only lasts for so long. Villalobos says in order to deal with the seasonal nature of the swimwear business, it is best for designers to also offer other types of garments . Her brand, for example, also sells lingerie. “That way, the business is not only seasonal,” she adds. “It is better to build up a brand or label the whole year around.” For those who do want to make it as a swimwear designer, hard work and dedication to the craft is the best way to get there, says Rivera. “Network as much as possible, take internships, always follow the trends and patterns in fashion, and never give up once you have been told ‘no,’” she advises. But aspiring swimwear designers must have the necessary talent to go along with a drive to succeed, Aguerri says. “Anyone can do a single color bikini,” she points out. “They really need to like color and go for prints. It needs to be part of their taste.” Bright color and prints are two of the trends for the upcoming swimwear season, according to all three women. And Swim Couture, a blog about swimwear, predicts that swimwear with animal prints and accessories will both be big this season. Most of the swimwear trends come from what is shown on the runway for everyday garments, says Aguerri. She says tribal patterns are “huge,” along with ruffles, animal prints, metallic colors, and accessories. Villalobos offers this for her summer swimwear forecast: “intense colors and printings, highly elaborated pieces, animal prints in unique colors, sophisticated embroidery, exotic and refined accessories, sexy one pieces.” to read more: